The owners of a South Jersey gym found in contempt of court by a judge for ignoring state coronavirus lockdown orders vowed to stay inside the facility and resist any efforts to close it down.
”It’s f--king showtime,” Atilis Gym co-owner Ian Smith said. “We are not backing down.”
Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy ordered Smith and co-owner Frank Trumbetti to pay legal fees and court costs on Friday in Camden after finding them in contempt.
Lougy authorities the state Health Department to “place locks on the doors … or otherwise construct or place barriers" to guarantee compliance with state orders and said the owners “shall not obstruct" any attempts to do so.
Fines will accompany each day they remain in contempt, the judge emphasized.
The co-owners said they were remaining in the Bellmawr business – and even removed the front door so no one can padlock it.
Smith called the judge’s decision a “small setback” and said “the fight against the working class cannot end.”
“We are looking at a showdown because Frank and I will not be backing down," he said Friday in a video at the gym's Facebook page.
He said he would request a stay of the order at a hearing Monday before Lougy so further arguments could be made.
State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli specifically ordered Atilis Gym to remain closed after Smith and Trumbetti said they wouldn’t abide by lockdown directives issued by Gov. Phil Murphy that he said were intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Persichilli said the gym could remain open if the owners followed certain precautions, but state inspectors and members of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said those measures weren’t taken.
Smith contended that the issue isn’t about health but, rather, an ongoing campaign by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to restrain trade.
As a result, he said, the company has changed its legal status from an LLC to a private membership association to afford it protections that include “the right to peaceably assemble.”
Yesterday’s ruling “underscores that companies cannot disregard the governor’s executive orders, which are designed to protect us all in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.
“While I wish it had not come to this, I am grateful that the court recognized the need for compliance,” Grewal said.
“The vast majority of businesses and residents are following these rules and doing their part to keep their friends and neighbors safe, and those few companies who flout our executive orders are once again on notice that we will hold them accountable, and that there will be serious consequences for their actions,” the attorney general said.
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